The World Market in Bogota at Codabas

The world's spices at the spice shop in the fruit and vegetable market.
The world’s spices at the spice shop in the fruit and vegetable market.

Where to find the world’s products in Bogota? Recently, I went to Codabas, a market in the northern part of Bogota. It’s up on Carrera 7 # 180. Codabas has a central building with fruit stalls surrounded by a parking lot of shops.

Inside the central building is a spice shop with every spice you didn’t know that you couldn’t find in Bogota. Cardamom. Chili mix. Fresh honey. Salt from the moon. Okay, I jest.

Clean fruit and veg.
Clean fruit and veg.

Some of the shops around the parking area include an Italian shop (they sell wine for less than 15,000 COP = $8 which is fairly cheap for Bogota) and other Italian items.

Frozen shumai dumplings.
Frozen shumai dumplings.

I was thrilled by the “Arabic” sandwich shop where I bought pita bread. (All of it. I also bought hummus. But, mostly, I was excited to find flat bread like I’ve found in the middle east.)

Hummus, babaganoush, labnah, and pita bread.
Baba ganoush, hummus, labnah, and pita bread.

Across from there is a Peruvian store but it was a bit pricey.

Arabic cafe.
Arabic cafe.

There were several fish shops which sold lots of frozen Asian seafood, like clams from Vietnam, and Asian foods (like frozen shumai dumplings). Plus, they sold a good brand (from Canada) of pickled herring. And squid ink. Just in case you were making squid ink pasta.

Pickled herring and squid ink.
Pickled herring and squid ink.

I will go back to explore some more but personally for vegetables (and especially for chiles and napa cabbage) I like the less sterile feel of Paloquemao a little bit better. IMG_8137Also, the Carulla on Calle 84 actually caters to the expats and carries many imported products.

Tight Is Better – Denim Jeans

Denim jeans are very popular here in Colombia. And the tighter; the better (which makes me imagine that “jeggings” or “pajama jeans” must be popular here?)

A jeans shop in a small town outside Bogota.
A jeans shop in a small town outside Bogota.

Every time I see jeans, in all their glorious stone-washed, faded, painted, ripped, be-jeweled, and stretchiness, I think about when I visited a jeans factory in Bangladesh. There, I saw jeans in the thousands being processed for the textile market. There were work stations where sand paper was used on designated “worn” locations, other rooms with rows upon rows of workers spray painting jeans, or gluing bedazzle applique in rhinestone designs. In other rooms, razors were used to rip slashes, and stretch jeans were pre-stretched on balloon machines. In one room, jeans were wrinkled and pegged before traveling on a clothes line through a curing oven.

All for export. Because, denim, and stretch, was fairly uncommon on the local market in Bangladesh. Maybe it was all headed to Bogota?

Denim being processed in Bangladesh.
Denim being processed in Bangladesh.

As I explore Bogota, I’ve noticed an incredible number of “camiseta” shops. Oddly, I don’t notice an equal number of “pantalones” shops. I guess, if one has a clean new shirt, then one can conquer the world?

Cartagena de Indias – The Most Beautiful Town in the World?

The lane where El Boliche cevicheria is located.
The lane where El Boliche cevicheria is located.

It’s just possible that Cartagena de Indias, on the coast of Colombia, is indeed the most beautiful town in the world. The old city, the “ciudad antigua,” is well preserved and pleasant for tourists, with lane after lane of prettiness and plazas. Wander from gelateria to ice cream shop (two are right next to each other which makes an comparisons much easier), after a dinner al fresco. The humid weather makes the juice (50 cents a glass) from the street vendor taste extra refreshing. Maybe try one of the “plantain hotdogs” which is a deep fried plantain stuffed with shredded meat and topped like a hotdog.

So pretty!
So pretty!

While this town is expensive, I recommend staying inside the walled city anyway. The city is different at night, and it’s nice to call it home for a while. During the day, enjoy the ridiculously picturesque lanes. Sure, it’s touristy but the vendors are not unpleasantly aggressive.

Many buildings are a cheery yellow color.
Many buildings are a cheery yellow color.

If you want, take a day trip to one of the nature reserves located out in the Caribbean. The main attractions in Cartagena for tourists seem to be the warmth, the beaches, the castle of St. Philip (“castillo san felipe”) and the walled city itself. Just outside the walled old city is the Getsemani, a neighborhood getting more publicity these days for its culture rather than for being the red light district.

The modern hotel strip of Cartagena (pronounced “Car-ta-heh-nah”), called the big mouth, “boca grande,” is a bit outside the walled city.

The famous walls make for a pleasant walk. The cars enter through small portholes.
The famous walls make for a pleasant walk. The cars enter through small gates under your feet.

Speaking of “Car-ta-HAY-nah” — If you go looking for scenes from the movie, Romancing the Stone, you will not find it since that was film was filmed in Mexico. But never mind, Cartagena de Indias will romance you (couldn’t resist!) even if you are made of stone. And yes, you can buy emeralds here (more on emeralds later).

The fruit ladies are famous! At over ten dollars for a bowl of fruit, they smile all the way to the bank.
The fruit ladies are famous! At over ten dollars for a bowl of fruit, they smile all the way to the bank.
A view of the modern part of Cartagena.
A view of the modern part of Cartagena from the castle.

Peruvian Food Tour in Lima

The modern version of ceviche at Brujas.
The modern version of ceviche at Brujas.

**** March 2015 — this blog posting got translated and re-blogged on a luxury tour site: in Spanish and in Portuguese. Thanks to Intiways for finding my blog and teaching me the correct Spanish translations! ****

Peru’s cuisine is the megastar on the international food scene. Lucky for me, I have a friend in Lima who took me on a personal food tour. Here are the highlights of a weekend eating tour of Lima. Buen provecho!

The witches.
The witches.

Friday night: Eat at Brujas de Cachiche. It might be my new favorite restaurant (their franchise, the Brujas de Cartagena is not a good copy — go to the original). Brujas have a white table cloth area for more formal dining or dates, a lounge with low slung comfy chairs for chatting with friends, a nightclub area upstairs, and a wine cellar for private dining amongst the amphorae. The menu is huge and includes an array of Peruvian cuisine, both traditional, and presented as “taster” platters. The decor is festive and because Limenos eat dinner late, you can eat a full dinner at 11:30 at night.

Lomo saltado. Shaken beef=stir fried beef.
Lomo saltado. Shaken beef=stir fried beef.

Try the pisco sour and the pisco maracuya (passion fruit). The “ceviche asiatico” with seafood is a visual and gustatory blend of the traditional Peruvian ceviche and Japanese (from the Peruvian Japanese community) sashimi. From the Peruvian Chinese community, you could try the “lomo saltado” or stir-fried beef which includes French fries as one of the stir-fried vegetables (of course, the potato is from here so meals include both rice and potatoes!). Try “picarones” for dessert. They are donuts.

The wine "cellar" at Brujas.
The wine “cellar” at Brujas.
Causa, a savory cake of potatoes.
Causa, a savory mash of potatoes.

Saturday noonish: After some coffee or espresso (lots of Peruvian Italians here too), make your way to the Plaza Mayor or main square. It’s very attractive and perhaps you’ll catch the changing of the guards at noon at the presidential palace. From there, wander over to Cordano’s a restaurant frequented by civil servants, inexpensive and with the feel of an Italian bistro. Try the “causa” which is a mashed potato lasagna or mash with many layers. Don’t be put off by my literal translation. The potatoes used are special yellow potatoes and they are mashed and flavored. It reminds me a bit of the Turkish meze, Jordanian mezze, or Bangladeshi bhorta. Perhaps, have a pisco sour at the place where it was invented? It was invented at the Hotel Maury.

Family room.
Family room.

Saturday lunch: After visiting the Church of San Francisco and the Palace of Torre Tagle (with the famous overhanging balconies), head over to the Museum of Food which is housed in the Old Post Office. While this museum could do with a Gaston and Astrid (the internationally acclaimed chef pair) restaurant and shop, the displays are interesting. In the museum, you will learn about “pollo a la brasa” or rotisserie chicken, and the cultures that influenced Peruvian cuisine including “Oriental, European, African, and Moorish” (Japanese/Chinese, Spanish/Italian, African, and Arab/Middle Eastern).

The original cevicheria.
The original cevicheria.

Then, with whetted appetite, grab a cab (yup, there’s an app for that) and head to La Red for lunch. This restaurant was started by a lady who wanted to serve ceviche to the mechanics who worked in the garages located in this part of town. Now, of course, the area is gentrified and the restaurant is run by the lady’s sons. Try “chicha,” a corn drink which tastes like mulled wine without the alcohol. Try the “ceviche classico” here. At 32 soles ($12), I would eat this every day if I lived nearby.

Classic ceviche.
Classic ceviche.
Ocope.
Ocope.

Also, try the “ocope” which is like “papas a la huancahina” which is one of my favorite potato dishes (it’s a spicy deconstructed potato salad which is served with hard boiled eggs and olives). The ocope sauce has vanilla and peanuts in it which makes it a utterly new sort of flavor in a savory dish. Also, try the “chupe de camarones” which is a hearty seafood soup served with a fried egg on top. I really liked the “tiradito” which is a modern ceviche with sliced fish and Peruvian sauces on top. I also had juice of the “aguaymanto” fruit. Pricy but nice.

Chicha and a juice.
Chicha and, of course, a fruit juice.
Where the students are...
Where the students are…

Saturday early evening: After a siesta, go to Parque de Miraflores for street food. I had, I think, “mazamone morade” which is sort of like a warm tapioca pudding. Like warm jam.

Clean food stall.
Clean food stall.

Try a “sanguche de chicharron” and a “sanguche de jamon del pais” both of which are pork sandwiches (sanguche is how they’ve peru-sonalized the word sandwich) from the famous “sanguche” chain. Also try their french fries called “papas huayco” which are a specific type of thick cut fry (recall that the potato was invented in Peru). Having such a specialty fry is like Five Guys in the U.S. where each store tells you, daily, the provenance of the spuds being fried.

A pork sandwich with yam. And fries.
A pork sandwich with yam. And fries.

After gawking at a wedding in the cathedral (they have weddings every hour to make sure that the audience can catch at least one on their way to dinner), have a juice of the “lucuma” fruit which is one of those divine juices that reminds you of why fruit is nectar.

Fusion ceviche. Sashimi style fish with Peruvian sauces. At La Red.
Fusion ceviche. Sashimi style fish with Peruvian sauces. At La Red.

At the Larcomar mall (a modern, clean, and safe hanging garden style mall built on the rock face of Lima’s coast), I tried some of the galactically famous Gaston y Astrid’s desserts. I tried the national dessert (well, one of them), “suspiro limeno” which is like a “fool” in England or a mousse of dulce de leche (caramel). I also tried a chocolate mousse with maracuya fruit on it (the tartness of passionfruit goes well with chocolate).

Dessert with a side of dessert.
Dessert with a side of dessert.

I rounded off the evening with a “cafe tapade” which is sort of watered down teensy coffee served in a teensy cup. Very wee. In my notes, I also wrote that I had a “palta fuerte” but I have no idea what that was. Good, whatever it was.

Sunday: Eat pollo a la brassa, or rotisserie chicken, at one of the famous restaurants (can’t recall right now, had the word chicken in it), and enjoy a full meal for four people, giant bowl of fries, sauces, and a heavy-weight salad with beets, carrots, and avocados, for around 100 U.S. dollars.

There is so much more, but perhaps I’ll mention them another time. Enjoy!

Larcomar mall and the coast of Lima.
Larcomar mall and the coast of Lima.

Buying Tea In Sri Lanka – Rainy Weather Drink

Different types of tea.
Different types of tea.

The monsoon in Bogota makes me want to drink lots of tea. Also, I want to watch British shows while cradling my teacup of Earl Grey tea. Of course, in many places like Sri Lanka, they drink tea even when it’s not raining.

The tea shop business card.
The tea shop sales staff in front of a wall of tea for purchase.

When I was in Sri Lanka, I went on a tea shop tour and discovered that the finest tea, made from “silver tip” leaves (the pale newest leaves at the top of the tea plant dry to a silverish color), is too subtle for me. I like Earl Grey. Maybe I’m just a sucker for the bergamot.

A cup of silver tip tea at the tea shop.
A cup of silver tip tea at the tea shop.

I also heartily suggest that people try using real loose leaf tea. The aroma alone will make you a convert. Enjoy a cuppa!

The tea factory.
The tea factory.